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Secret relationships and overt shaming.

One of my earliest memories before I started living with my grandparents was getting off the bus and walking to the apartment my mum and I were living in at the time. Everything is fine on the bus cause I am the “loser” who sat in the front of the bus. I liked Sitting by the front tire cause there was a bump in the metal underfoot and I could scrunch down and have my feet up on it and my knees resting into the seat in front of me. (Which no one was ever in so I wasn’t being rude). One thing I learned very early was to be quiet and small, so people would hopefully ignore me or not even know I existed.

I get off the bus, other kids do too, I don’t know them or maybe I do, and I have to start running home because they are throwing rocks at me. It was always a game to get home before they could. I sat at the front of the bus to get a head start, regardless I was slow and fat, and was an easy target for these things. Another one from the same time is playing on the playground. The apartment complex had a playground in the middle of the U shaped road that the apartments were on. It was nice, it was even nice if it was just me and one other kid. As soon as there were more tho, they would all turn on me and make fun of me and throw rocks at me. No one even at that young age (Before I was 7-8) could bear to be seen being friends with the fat kid.

Fast forward to early adulthood, I was on a really simple small get to know you date. We met up at Dennys, got coffee, you could still smoke there. We spend at least 2 hours just talking, eventually got food, spent at least another hour talking and then decided to get some deserts cause one can only drink so much coffee without needing some food. We order deserts, we keep talking. I am thinking wow this is awesome someone I can just talk with. My date excused themselves to the restroom, and I poked at my whatever I had ordered drank coffee, had a cig, then I realized it seemed like it had been a while. I finally started keeping track of time on my watch. About 20 minutes later the waitress had come back again to find me fighting back tears. She looked at the place across from me, and looked around scanning the place. I shrugged at her and said something about how I guess that was that. I just sat there finished my desert and smoked more, had another few cups of coffee. It had been well over an hour at this point, this person wasn’t coming back.

The waitress was really nice, maybe because I was a regular and maybe she just felt bad. He never came back, and I never heard from him ever again. The waitress actually paid for our food, because yeah he left and left me to pay for everything including his stuff. So I spent the money I was going to that eve and just tipped her. She even hugged me and said something refreshingly derogatory about men.

There is this constant need for me and my fatness and the fact that anyone could possibly find my company pleasing or even find me attractive to be squashed down, hidden, and made sure that no one ever finds out. Even friendships, just being the “when I have nothing else to do” friend, or the “friend I hangout with but only alone”, no one can see me hanging out with this person.

I am as fat now as I have ever been, and even back then I was still of such little value that I was this secret. The secret friend, the secret flirt, the secret fuck, the secret partner. I have always been a secret because I am not valuable enough to be a celebrated part of anyones life. It has been this way since some of my earliest memories and it’s been this way recently as well.

Even around “family” I was reminded how little worth I had and how overt people can be with that. There was a year where we did our annual Easter egg hunt (I was raised Roman Catholic). There was always snow, but that was half the fun. I followed my clues to find all the eggs, and then yay I found my basket. This one year in particular I remember very vividly. While my cousins were opening their baskets and oohing and awing, I was slowly poking around my basket. Everyone else was laughing and having a good time. I was not. My basket had some fruits and veggies in it, some like grapenut granola shit, there was other things too, but no candy. I couldn’t have candy cause I was fat, as a child they told me this by making my communal “family” time a lesson in humiliation. Also in my basket was some deodorant, and some like face wipes for some “beauty” reason or another.

I left everyone out on the deck, I set my basket inside and I went to my room to cry. Crying myself to sleep because of how much I hate myself, because of how others treat/ed me, because every moment of my life was a reminder that if only I was different and not fat, maybe I too could have got candy that year for easter. I remember my grandpa sneaking me a hot cross bun, which was always my favorite during this fucked up holiday. He understood, he was also policed about what he could and could not eat. The cookie jar was always full of cookies, but me and gramps weren’t supposed to eat them? We both routinely snuck around the house and stole cookies at night, because we weren’t allowed to eat them otherwise.

I used to think and probably still do on many levels that I should be lucky I even get to have any of this. I mean that is what society has told me since my earliest memories. Just be grateful for what you get. Be grateful you got raped, cause no one would fuck you normally. Be grateful people even notice you enough to throw rocks at you. Be grateful anyone would even spend time with you. Be grateful to be that secret 11pm call to hangout and watch a movie. Be grateful you even got anything for a holiday, be grateful you get to eat with the family even if your plate and portions are policed.

When it’s one on one, people are totally different. That has been my experience even through adulthood. So many intimate moments that I would never dare tell anyone because it was made clear no one would believe me anyway. So many quiet confessions of my positive attributes, of my prowess, my talents and skills. So many things that can only be said in the darkness in the quiet times that are just the two of us. No one can know how much that fuck rocked your world. Oh dear fuck, if someone finds out your going to be branded a “fatty fucker”. I mean you can tell them it was a pity fuck, that makes you feel better and makes you look oh so charitable to your mates.

This door does happen to swing both ways. Where I am embarrassed for people I care about. I have such little self worth right now that I feel like I should be the one making efforts and keeping myself a secret. I don’t feel like I am worth enough to be noticed and cared about. People should probably just pretend they don’t even know me because my value is so little; I am a negative, a detriment. If I am a secret, then maybe I don’t exist in this reality where everything hurts. Maybe it’s better to be a secret than to be hurt.

I really don’t know.

Secret relationships and overt shaming.

Gender Stereotypes & Abuse

CN: gender stereotypes, abuse, SA, fat phobia, victim blaming/shaming, size shaming, r*pe apologia, uncensored use of the word r*pe, toxic masculinity, ableism

“Is he bigger than you?”, is usually the first question people ask after finding out I’m a victim of domestic violence. They tell me I couldn’t have been abused because I’m bigger than my abuser. They said I could have fought him off. I’m not believed because I’m not petite or thin.

To these people, victims aren’t supposed to look physically strong. To them, violence is always physical.
I tried fighting back but it angered him. So much so he left me with a fat lip. Afterwards he wouldn’t let me leave the house until the bruise healed. So I did everything I could to avoid the beatings. But as any victim of domestic violence knows, that isn’t always possible.

I’ve been told that I couldn’t have been raped because I should have been able to fight him off. If I didn’t fight him off then I must have wanted it. This type of reasoning is victim blaming. Whether they meant to or not, these people are saying that since I didn’t fight hard enough I deserved what happened. They’re saying there is such a thing as “true rape”.

This type of thinking is fat phobic and size shaming because you’re saying that because of my size, I should have never been a victim. Except, as previously stated violence isn’t always physical. He made me afraid by various means. This type of thinking is ableist as well because I am physically disabled and fighting him or anyone off would be impossible. It is also transmysoginistic because I am about as tall as most men and fat so I’m not seen as feminine enough. Then of course, there’s the sexism of “you’re too ugly to fuck”. Forgetting that rape is never about sex, but about power, this trope suggests that rapists rape because they were physically attracted to their victims. This trope goes as far as to suggest that fat women should be grateful they even got the attention.

Now, think about the media you consume.  Think of the Henpecked Husband and Tiny Guy, Huge Girl tropes. Why is the idea of a “domineering” woman, usually taller than her husband funny? It’s because men are supposed to be in charge. Size is thought to be in direct relation to strength and men have to be strong, otherwise he isn’t a man.  Women are supposed to be small and meek.  Are you getting the picture?

These tropes exist because we live in a patriarchal society which values toxic masculinity and enforces a strict and rigid gender binary. And so, I will continue to get these questions. And I will continue to ask these people why they think I deserve abuse. Hopefully that way they’ll understand that what they’re doing is revictimizing me. At the very least, I’ll enjoy their faces as they try to justify my abuse to my face.

Gender Stereotypes & Abuse

I’m not beautiful and that is OK.

I’ve started therapy at a new clinic. My therapist is a WOC who identifies as a feminist so she gets points for that. We’ve talked about growing as girl children in machista families. She understands where I’m coming from with certain things.

However, every time I mention the word ugly she stops to ask if I really think I’m ugly.

No, I don’t. By conventional standards, I am ugly and not very feminine looking. I’m fat, I have stretch marks and cellulite. I have jiggly and flabby skin. I have scars from self injury. I’m tall. I have short hair dyed an unnatural color. I have piercings and I’m hairy.

But I really don’t give a fuck if I’m ugly or not. Not anymore.
When I was little all I heard from my family was how fat and ugly I was. So, as I got older and the other girls were trying on make up and exploring their femininity I decided that those things were vain and frivolous. They were weak and I wouldn’t be.

I had internalized the misogyny hurled at me all my life. I would be one of the guys, not like those other silly girls. I shunned anything that could be called feminine while simultaneously adhered to other rigid gender norms like shaving. And why did I shave? Because hairy women are “ugly”. Men don’t like hairy women. So while I shunned certain aspects of femininity to protect myself I also chose to follow some to also protect myself. I was a mess. A chill girl mess.

As I’ve matured into my feminism, I’ve learned that femininity isn’t weakness. Once I learned to let go of that internalized misogyny, I realized femininity is powerful. I wear make up and dresses now because it makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel pretty. Not pretty for other people. Pretty for me. I don’t shave because it’s too much hassle and I was only doing it for other people.

I’m going to have to explain that being ugly isn’t the worst thing. I’ll have to explain what I mean when I use the word ugly. I’ll have to spend part of my therapy session explaining 101 feminism/social justice stuff. And that’s exhausting. My thinking I’m “ugly” isn’t more important than treating my PTSD.

On a typical summer day, you’ll find me wearing a pretty dress, make up on my face all while my pits and legs are hairy. I’m not beautiful by conventional standards and that’s OK. I never will fit into the white ideal and I don’t want to. I’m beautiful for me.

I’m not beautiful and that is OK.

“You’re so fat”

Trigger warming: weight discussion, actual numbers mentioned, fat phobia, fat shaming by doctors, mentions of death and suicide, mention of eating disorders

Author’s Note: When I mention “family” I mean uncles, aunts or cousins. I don’t mean brothers, mami or grandma.

I am fat. At 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing (last I checked) close to 260 pounds, I am medically considered obese. Whenever I have physicals all my vitals are “perfect” but I’m told that will change if I keep being so damn fat.

The doctor’s scale doesn’t scare me anymore but it used to. I still remember being in the nurse’s office waiting to see the doctor. I’m weighed in front of some other kid who was waiting his turn. The doctor looked at the number and said “oh que gorda” (how fat!), looked at the boy waiting and told him not to worry, he wouldn’t weigh as much as I did. Every time I saw that doctor he had a comment to make about my weight. All he ever said was to go on a diet. He would ask if I ate a lot of junk food. No. He asked if I was active. Yes. It wasn’t until years later that another doctor figured out I had a “lazy” thyroid. And people’s reaction to that news? “Oh well that’s why you’re so fat!”

Anyway, I told my mom I didn’t want to see that doctor anymore. So, we go see another doctor (old doctor’s son-in-law because our town in Puerto Rico was small, apparently all the doctors were related. My dentist was jackass doctor’s daughter, but I digress). Son-in-law would tell me the same thing. I was fat and I needed to lose weight. But they wouldn’t tell me how. Mami and I ran into him once, I was already taller than my mother, who’s 5 feet tall, by that time. The “good” doctor looks at me and says that I was so “big and fat”, it looks like I was the mother and my mother the child. I was barely 11. My mother is short and thin. I’m tall and fat. People never believe she’s my mom. It’s a little frustrating having to justify my existence. “Your mom is so tiny! How did you get so BIG? Oh my, how was she able to birth you?” Well, I wasn’t born this big, for one. But whatever.

My weight has always been a hot topic in my family. Everyone would tell me I was so pretty and I’d be so much prettier if I wasn’t fat. I was told no man would want me. I was told not to eat so much. My brothers ate as if food was going out of style but they were never told to stop. They were growing boys after all. I barely ate and when I would indulge in the rare cookie I was told to stop being such a “puerca” (pig). If I didn’t do my chores properly I was chastised. “You’re so big and fat, why can’t you clean these dishes?”

Family I hadn’t seen in years would comment on how fat I’d gotten. Then I get my first period and since Puerto Rican grannies have no sense of privacy, soon all my aunts knew I had become a “señorita” (a young lady). So they hoped that now I would lose weight. I hoped so too. Whenever I would complain to mami about the fat shaming I endured she would tell not to worry because I just had “baby fat”. I believed that until I hit twelve and I needed a bra bigger than my mother’s.

Above I mentioned a doctor found out why I had such a hard time losing weight. At 14, I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Finally, my family thought, with the pills they give her she’ll lose weight and become beautiful.

I left Puerto Rico a few months after that. In NYC I had doctors tell me I was too fat but at least they gave me diets to go on. At my heaviest in my teens I was weighing 231 and wearing a size 20/22. I hated myself. I starved myself but nothing I did made the weight go away. So then I’d become depressed and binge. I’ve never been formally diagnosed with an eating disorder but I’m pretty sure I was displaying symptoms.Then at 15, I attempted suicide and the nurse at the hospital asks if I was depressed because I was “fat with no boyfriend”.

My teens were rough, I was battling depression, we were homeless, I was bullied in school. I wasn’t eating properly because 1) the shelter we were in didn’t provide adequate food and 2) I didn’t exactly go out of my way to eat properly when I had the chance. I went down to a size 9/10 in pants. I was weighing 175lbs. That was the lightest I had ever been. Everybody was so proud of me. That’s when I realized that people would rather see me thin and sick than fat and healthy.

I’ve gone back to Puerto Rico three times in these past 12 years and every time my weight is brought up. The first time I returned to Puerto Rico was for my grandfather’s funeral. I was 16 and worried that I was too fat. I was worried my clothes wouldn’t fit. My grandpa was dead and I hadn’t seen him in two years but I was worried about disrespecting his memory with my fat. Grandma told me not to worry. Grandpa was watching down from heaven and he was happy I was there. Grandma wasn’t very kind to me growing up, but she’s changed a lot since then and I’m thankful to her for easing my mind. That’s another post for another day though.

The last two times I visited Puerto Rico were so my daughter could meet my grandma. My family talked about how fat I used to be. My weight was a big topic. They kept telling me how tall and big I was. How solidly built I am. One elderly cousin kept saying I was so “skinny” compared to how I was when little. Oh, how thankful she was that I had lost all that weight. I’m far too pretty to be so fat. What they don’t know is that I weigh more now than I did then, it’s just that I’ve grown up and the weight has redistributed and I also have some muscle.

I’m bottom heavy and my legs have always been criticized as being too big, “like tree trunks”. My hips are wide and my thighs cause thunder; baby also got back.  It took me a long time to be able to appreciate my body. It was only last year that I finally conquered my fear of bathing suits and went to the beach in a one piece showing my legs in all of their fat, hairy glory. I walked on that beach and felt proud of myself. Then I see a cousin I hadn’t seen since I was 11 and he says my arms are flabby. I don’t feel anything. It doesn’t bother me like it would have back then. I acknowledge it as a fucked up thing to say and then I realize, well my arms do jiggle but so the fuck what?

I tuck his comment in the box in my mind labeled “fuck boy opinions” and told him if my arms are such a problem he was free not to look at them.

The scale doesn’t scare me anymore. I only weigh myself at the doctor’s. I see the scale and think in my best cheesy western movie voice “it’s you again.” I’m weighed and they tell me the number and I acknowledge it and just tuck it away in the box in my mind of “stuff about me that isn’t that big of a deal”. My weight is right next to “hates Twizzlers”. I think about it once a while, I may even obsess over it (why would anyone like that devil candy?) but when it’s time to get serious I put it away and focus on important things.

I spent far too long hating myself for something I can’t change. My genes are the way they are. I can’t change my bone structure. Even at 175 I was still “curvy”. That won’t change. I will always be fat and I have no desire to lose weight and that is OK.

“You’re so fat”

Let Me Take A Selfie

A few years ago, I participated in one of the Facebook status games. The point of the game was to reveal something about yourself, something that some people might not know or that you think they should know. Among the list, I included that I struggled with fairly severe body image issues. A friend of mine responded that she was surprised to learn that because she always believed me to be very confident. Since I have a tendency to hide my body, even as a nudist, and a tendency to show discomfort around my appearance, I was quite surprised to learn that she believed me to be confident. I asked her why she thought so and she replied: Yours always posting pictures of yourself.

It wasn’t meant as a criticism of me, it wasn’t meant to shame me, and it was simply an observation. I post pictures of myself, I take several pictures of myself, so therefore I must be confident.

As a culture, we’ve created this idea that selfies are a sign of vanity, and we are terrified of vanity. So much so, that we have built an entire culture predicated on teaching everyone to hate their appearance. We create impossible standards and then tell everyone that regardless of circumstance we must achieve it and maintain it. We’ve so thoroughly pervaded our social bias towards people who fall outside the “acceptable standards of beauty” that we as a society no longer treat them as fully human. Perversely, in an attempt to avoid the appearance of vanity we have instead created a cultural obsession towards an obsessive hatred of one’s self.

Ultimately, that is all that vanity is. It is an appreciation for one’s own appearance. It is a love for what you see when you look at yourself. It is a comfort in your own skin. Yes, excessive vanity can be dangerous, just like excess in anything is dangerous. But vanity, by itself? It is an act of self-love.

But selfies? They’re not an expression of vanity, they are a lifeline that reminds myself that I am not worthless. That I am not hideous. It is what allows me to replace my internal image of myself from one of loathing to one of acceptance. Because I don’t love how I look. I hate it. I can’t look in the mirror without desperately wanting to cut off some pieces of myself. Without wondering how anyone can possibly be attracted to me, and wondering if every sexual interaction I’ve ever had was a lie. My body, my appearance, was the weapon used to cut at my psyche over and over and over again. I was told it was the reason I was alone.

Those words, those cuts to my self-esteem are part of the reason why I let myself be taken in by users and abusers when I went out into the dating world. It was the excuse for every negative interaction with people I was interested in. They’re the reason that I sat like this, to avoid my rolls showing up through my shirt, because then people would think of me as fat.

Ania at 14 sitting with her back arched so as to not show any bulges

It is what made me think for years that the girl in this picture was fat.

Ania at 13 standing in front of the Notre Dame

Then I figured out that if I was careful I could take pictures that highlighted the few things that I do like about myself. The contrast of my features against my sk

Ania in a black tank top
in, the darkness of my hair, the colour of my eyes, all things I could appreciate about myself. They were things that let me believe that I had value, that I was worthy of love. Especially in this world that goes out of its way to tell me the opposite. These pictures, these pictures that are used to mock my vanity, to mock the very hutzpah of daring to love even the smallest part of myself when I am so far from perfect. Because how dare I. How dare I?

Older picture of Ania
How dare I look to myself for validation when the world teaches me that I should rely on the approval of men, regardless of whether I have any interest in their approval. How dare I not be grateful for the compliment that men deign to bestow on me, regardless of whether I want them, or whether they make me feel unsafe and like a target. The one that tells me that I am never allowed to refuse an advance because I’m ugly and so they are doing me a favour my being with me and tells me I am not allowed to have standards.

So no, I don’t need you to tell me that I am pretty. Because I have my selfie, so that I can tell myself what I need to hear.

Because that’s what they are. They’re selfies, and they have nothing to do with you.

 

Let Me Take A Selfie